the history of rough country four wheelers

By Rod Pepper

1974-Gerald Ford was President, Nixon had just resigned and a new Jeep CJ could be had for less than $4,500 loaded. In the fall of that year, Tom Williams (Dewey's uncle) and I joined a club in Laramie called "Four for the Road," a small but very active club started by Kenny Erickson and Kelly Everett. We eventually recruited two more people from Cheyenne for that club, Larry Jackson and Joe Bryant. This was our first exposure to the sand hills at Walden. We frequented Snowy Range, Muddy Creek, the sand dunes at Rock Springs, and the Pole Mountain area. That club was disbanded in May of '76 with one last big blow-out at the North 40, a very large mud hole we used to play in in the Pole Mountain area. An entire book could be written about that party! After that, a small group of us from Cheyenne and Laramie continued to 4-wheel together.

In June of '76, Tom Williams and I went to Ft. Collins to one of the Mountaineer's meetings to get some ideas on how to start a club in Cheyenne. Shortly after that, Ron Meis moved to Cheyenne from Colorado and opened Wyoming Performance and 4WD at 1418 Campbell Avenue. He and I became friends and decided to try and start a 4WD club. We recruited the help of Tom Williams and Dick Royce, my roommate at the time, and set out doing a lot of talking to people with 4-wheel drives. We had our first meeting in the back of Ron's shop on Campbell in September of '76. We only had about 6 or 7 people there. By October, we had enough people that we needed a larger place so we had the meeting in the basement of the house Dick and I were renting at 3036 Forest Drive.

By the next month, things really started to roll, so we moved the meeting to the VFW on South Greeley Highway. It was at that meeting that we tried to decide on a name and logo for the club. The logo was the hardest because everyone wanted something different, usually based on whatever vehicle they drove. Everyone was told to come to the next meeting with an idea on a name and logo. Cheryl Matheson, who had recently moved from New York with her husband Neil, was an artist of sorts, and she had drawn the covered wagon free hand with the winch, lights, gas can, flag, and spare tire. It not only represented Wyoming and it's western heritage but also did not represent any one particular vehicle. It was voted on unanimously! The name "Rough Country" came to be a little more humorously. George Williams, who was Ron's roommate at the time, came up with the name and said that it sounded more like the nightlife that was kept by many of the members at the time. It was also voted on unanimously! Tragically, George was killed in a tornado in Illinois in 1983 at the age of 35 and ironically is buried less than 20 yards from Wayne Miller, another club member who along with his girlfriend was killed in 1986 in a Jeep roll-over coming back from the Labor Day weekend at Walden. Wayne was 22.

The first elections were held in January of '77. The club's first officers were: President Rod Pepper; Vice-President Ron Meis; Secretary Dick Royce; and Treasurer George Williams. Dues were $12 a year. The first constitution was adopted in March of '77 and was taken from a 1974 issue of Four Wheeler magazine and modified a little. The original t-shirts and jackets were done by a gal named Jeannie who had a shop in the original Budget Tapes and Records at the corner of 16th and Warren. The first t-shirts had Ron's business on the front and the club logo on the back. They cost each member 50 cents. Ron picked up the rest. A past member named Kevin McFadden showed up in early 1979 and joined the fray. In those days, Kevin sported a big "afro" hairdo and drove a puke green 3/4 ton GMC Pickup with a white hood. These first few years of the club were wild times. Our major focus was party and mud, generally combined! The areas we frequented were Snowy Range, Muddy Creek (before we paved it!), Pole Mountain, and Walden and anywhere else we could find a mud hole. We also started going to Kelly Flats in about '76 or '77, although I don't believe it was called Kelly Flats at that time, we just called it the trail up Poudre Canyon that has the big mud holes! We also frequented the Green Ridge and Bald Mountain areas.

In 1979, mud racing took off big in the Cheyenne and Laramie area and of course that was right up our alley so quite a few club members got involved in that. We raced in Cheyenne and Laramie on alternating weekends. This, of course, took it's toll on club runs. Throughout 1980 and early 1981, there was growing dissension within the club. Two completely different factions had arisen. There were the rowdy party hounds who were in the majority and there was the smaller but more responsible group who mostly ended up going their separate ways. Guess which side of the fence Kevin and I were on? By mid 1981, the split, a divorce or two, and dwindling numbers had just about killed the club. I moved to Casper and several of my Cheyenne buddies came up and played. I came back for the big Walden weekends and Kevin and I continued that tradition. And so it was, the end of an era, the first chapter in the history of RC4W, the "Rowdy Years" were over. Or were they?

When we left it was mid 1981, an accumulation of problems along with not enough people left, had killed the club. I had moved to Casper and joined the club up there. I had a pretty dang good time in the year that I spent with that bunch; we played in a LOT of mud! I moved back to Cheyenne in the summer of '82 and again hooked up with a few of the old club members, Tom Williams, Kevin McFadden, Kevin Bryant, Pat Patterson, and probably a couple more that I can't remember! As time went on, a few more started showing up to go 'wheeling with us, Rick Carlson, Terry Gabel, Jim Haller, Shawn Franzen, Mike Flynn and Dick Biggerstaff. This went on for a couple of years. We went to Walden a lot, as well as Muddy Creek and Impossible Hill. By then we had decided to reorganize the club. We arranged with the VFW on Nationway to have our meetings there on the first Wednesday of each month. Our first meeting was in October of '84. Our first run was a disaster! There were a few differences of opinion. Over what? I can't even remember now, but it weeded out a few individuals right off the bat! But, things settled down, and we started getting organized. We got some hats, t-shirts and jackets made and revised the constitution and bylaws a little. I had arranged with a company in Fort Collins to reproduce our original club decal which was BLACK and white. When I went to pick them up, they had screwed up and made them RED and white.

The Club Logo was designed and hand

 drawn by Cheryl Matheson in late '76 early '77. She and her husband Neil were charter members of the Club.

We decided that we liked them anyway and since the club colors were red and white, we would just keep them. By the summer of '85, we had grown to about 15 members and were looking for ways to get our name out in to the public and recruit some new members. Part of the reason the club had died the first time was we just didn't have enough members to start with. In those days, I was a mud-racing addict so my suggestion was a mud race. I had gotten hooked up with the mall director, and we arranged to have it behind the mall in the area where Dillards is now located. The mall spent thousands on the promotion of it through radio, tv and newspapers, which was good because we sure didn't have any money! We organized and ran the whole thing. The club really pulled together on it, everyone got involved and took on a job. The previous two weekends we had a mall show to promote the mud race. We displayed vehicles and a booth and took registrations for the race. Race day was the first Sunday of Frontier Days '85. The mall had hired an announcer, a band, concessions and off-duty cops for crowd control. We had pre-registered over 100 entries. Race day was incredible; police estimated the crowd throughout the day at nearly ten thousand. Needless to say, the club got noticed!

Within a couple of months, the club nearly doubled its membership. John Bundy was the only "mud race recruit" having joined in August of '85. His first unite number was 20. In September of '85, I "produced" the first newsletter on an old typewriter I had. It was REALLY lame, but it was a start! By October '85, we had enough members to have our first ever Board of Directors. The first Board was Davey Smith, Robert Santos, Mike Schumm, Jeff Schumm, and Dave Addington. In November of '85, we incorporated for the first time. In December '85, we joined United Four Wheel Drive Associations. Also in December '85, we started the first of several "community goodwill" type things. We had always had a Christmas tree cutting trip so we started getting extra trees and donating them to Needs, Inc. Channel 5 came out and did a feature news story on us. That went a long way toward establishing the club as a decent member of the community.

Bullwinkle made his first appearance on the February '86 club run and Jeff Schumm was his first "guest".

In May of '86, past member Tracy McLane joined the club with much coaxing from Kevin! At the time, Tracy had a really nice full size Bronco. His first unit number was 28.

Tragedy struck the club for the second time in 3 years on Labor Day weekend '86. Club member Wayne Miller and his girlfriend were killed when he lost control of his Jeep west of Laramie and rolled multiple times. They were returning from Walden. Wayne was 22. His unit number, 26, was retired in his memory.

On December 7, 1986, the club participated in the first ever Christmas Toy Cruise. We had 30 Four-Bys in attendance.

The first club meeting held at Uncle Charlies was on Tuesday, December 2, 1986. It was a really good move. The noise at the VFW had been really bad.

In March of '86, we established our Adopt-a-Trail program with the Forest Service. The Muddy Creek trail was on their closure list, so we adopted it just to keep it open. After ten years of working on it (or defunning it), we have it nearly paved now! But, it was either lose it or pave it, so we decided that since it was a lost cause anyway, we might as well get some mileage out of it. The Forest Service did put some really nice articles, with pictures, of our work trips in both the Cheyenne and Laramie newspapers. Also, the next time you're through West Laramie, stop by their offices. They have a really nice large display board of pictures of our work trips and the Adopt-a-Trail program.

The summer of '86, we were mud racing again. This time at races put on by both the Fort Collins club and the Loveland club. RC4W did real well! In November of '86, I issued a snow-bashing challenge to those two clubs through the newsletter. It was accepted and bantered back and forth in each club's newsletter until the morning of February 22, 1987 when 62 vehicles from the 3 clubs showed up at Tie Siding, Wyoming. The Fort Collins club brought the chili, and we brought the hot dogs for the party at the end of the day. It was a WAY good time!

In May of '87, we had our second of three mall shows at Frontier Mall. We displayed 20 vehicles as well as well as a booth with club videos, photo albums, etc. We did the same thing again in June of '88.

During the '87 Memorial Day weekend at Walden, Larry Vincent found his way to RC4W by breaking down in front of our camp. He joined the club in August of '87 and the rest, as they say, is history. Larry's first unit number was 28. He subsequently brought 4 more new members from Platteville, Colorado.

In September of '87, the Fort Collins club held mud drag races at Wellington, Colorado. RC4W REALLY kicked butt. In addition to the many individual trophies won by club members, the club won trophies for best participation by a club and most wins by a club.

As much fun as the club was having during these years, there was trouble again brewing within the ranks having started about mid '86. There were once again two different factions emerging within the club. Suffice it to say, that the problems were making it difficult for people with families to enjoy club functions. It totally blew up during August and September of '87. Things REALLY got ugly. The result was another split but unlike the first one in '81, it didn't kill the club. This time the club had nearly 50 members, so we were able to absorb the loss and continue on. We held a special election on October '87 to replace the Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and two Board Members. Kevin McFadden was the President at the time. We also revised the constitution to prevent certain occurrences from happening again.

In all, the '80s were a great time for the club. We were very involved in many different activities. We did a lot of community type things, and got quite a bit of media coverage for them. We had a lot of parties and picnics, which made for a close-knit group. We also frequently had inter-club activities with the Fort Collins and Loveland clubs.

The good times continued only into the early '90s. From about '93 or '94 on, the club started a long downhill slide that saw it loose most of its original membership and activities by the end of the decade. Things started to turn around again in late 2001 and 2002 has been a very good year and one that future successes can be built on!


The three who started RC4W. Rod Pepper, Ron Meis and Tom Williams.

Photo taken Sept 9, 2006.